Gardening service project engages first graders in multidisciplinary learning

MGN-Online/Wiki Commons
Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 9:15am

Two members of the Northwestern State University faculty concluded a service project with Natchitoches first graders that integrated learning with gardening, nutrition and exercise. Dr. Michelle Morris and Dr. Terrie Poehl from the College of Education and Human Development spent months working with students at L.P. Vaughn Elementary asthey grew vegetables in a school garden and related health and exercise to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The project culminated with a program that coincided with Global Youth Service Day.

“The project linked instruction to science, history and healthy living,” Morris said.

The two used vegetable characters in “My Plate” puppet shows to educate children about food groups and a balanced diet. Giving the children pedometers allowed them to track how many steps they took in a day, which they compared to the miles Meriwether Lewis and William Clark travelled during their historic Corps of Discovery expedition. Students harvested herbs and vegetables from their garden that Morris used to prepare a salad for the classes. First grade teachers Martha Fontcuberta, Alexandra Antwine, Daphine Butler and JenniferJenkins directed students in making posters about what they learned.

Students said their favorite parts of the program were the puppet shows, reading about Meriwether Lewis’s dog Seaman and growing cilantro.

Morris and Poehl presented their project, “A Step in the Right Direction: A Gardening and Exercise Service-Learning Project,” during the University of Louisiana System’s Academic Summit last month.

Morris has partnered in school garden projects with L.P. Vaughn since 2011 to promote hands-on learning. School gardening has grown in popularity throughout the United States as gardening lends itself to instruction in science, mathematics, writing and other subjects. Since initiating the project, Morris sought partnerships with the LSU Ag Center, the City of Natchitoches, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Louisiana Serve Commission and volunteer groups to sustain the gardening project at L.P. Vaughn.


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